Food Stories in Northern Ireland, a Food NI member company, has won substantial business with Tesco Ireland for its range of healthier Pinkfinch fruit and vegetable crisps, writes Sam Butler.
The deal with Tesco, the Belfast company’s latest sales success outside Northern Ireland, will see an estimated 100,000 bags of the snacks sold annually.
Having begun his business from his parent’s spare bedroom five years ago, Food Stories founder Michael Heaslip has managed to grow his innovative product line across Ireland, the UK, Europe, and the Middle East with distribution warehouses in Ireland and the UK.
Pinkfinch flavours selected by Tesco include Green Bean & Sugar Snap Pea, Banana, and Apple, which uniquely for the European market, contain real fruit that has undergone a vacuum-crisping process.
Before launching his business, Heaslip committed to creating a healthy, innovate product, which tastes great.
After three years of research and product development, which saw Heaslip travel the world in search of the perfect manufacturing process, Pinkfinch fruit and veggie crisps hit the shelves.
Within weeks Green Bean and Sugar Snap Pea won a Great Taste Award and was shortlisted in the Sial Paris Innovation Selection 2018.
“My aim was to develop a healthier crisp, one which could contribute to the five-a-day diet recommendation. We developed a unique cooking process that maintains the taste qualities of the fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Heaslip explains.
“This means, for example, that are a more appealing snack for children. Mum’s that couldn’t convince their children to eat fruit & vegetables are sending us thank you messages on social media.”
“They are also based on real fruit, are gluten-free and high in fibre.”
“It was also very important to us that we had a product that was innovative and tastes great, in that regard we are unrivalled in the market.”
I was lucky enough to travel to Western Australia three years ago. I was on the hunt for inspiration. We had three criteria to qualify a concept, it had to taste fantastic, a healthier alternative to chocolate and traditional snacks, and be innovative.
“My friend gave me a packet of Jack Fruit Crisps that he had bought in an Asian supermarket. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted. I was instantly hooked on the idea and thought there was an opportunity for a similar crisp, but with fruit and vegetables, the European market is familiar with. The Food Stories team back home bought into it and we started the long journey to bring it to market.
That is actually where the name Pinkfinch comes from, it is a an Asian bird that sources the best fruit to eat. It took us that long to source the right partners to work with, I thought Pinkfinch was quite appropriate. It has been a challenge but a load of fun too.
“The business with Tesco Ireland and listing in 118 stores marks a significant chapter of growth in our business. Tesco Ireland were the first major multiple to list and we are determined to grow the business with them and make the listing a success.
“The past eight weeks have been a whirlwind as we have had an additional 800 supermarkets across Europe launch on top of the new Tesco Ireland listing. One of which is Sainsbury’s UK were we will be stocked in 334 stores,” he adds.
Commercial Director at Tesco Ireland, Joe Manning said: “We’re thrilled to bring the award winning Pinkfinch range of fruit crisps to our Irish customers, across our stores and online. Innovation is a key focus in everything we do, and our teams are very passionate about continuing to develop our offering with the best range of products in the Irish market.”
Michele Shirlow, Food NI chief executive, added: “This is another tremendous success for our member company in exports. This enterprising and ambitious small company has certainly racked up an impressive list of successes with leading supermarkets here and abroad.”